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Rabelais, Chièze, illustration


Gustave Doré's mid-nineteenth-century illustrations of François Rabelais's oeuvre have become as well-known as the text itself: their fanciful details capture the literally larger-than-life personality of the French sixteenth-century humanist's protaganist-giants, Pantagruel and Gargantua. Equally intrigued by the thematic complexity and imaginative narrative of this Renaissance masterpiece, subsequent artists and illustrators of Rabelais continue to create new and unexpected artistic representations. This paper presents the illustrations of a lesser-known twentieth-century French wood engraver, Jean Chièze. His notable contributions to a 1935 commemorative edition of Pantagruel simultaneously highlight the medieval woodcut, emphasize the playful tone of Rabelais's narrative and allude to contemporary twentieth- century events. Chièze's creative uses of compositional design as well as his unique selection of illustrated scenes reveal him to be an accomplished reader of Rabelais. His resultant illustrations help us to be better readers, as well.